plugins

Plugin Manager Window

Contents:

1. Plugin Framework Overview
2. Management Of Installed Plugins
3. Installation of New Plugins

1. Plugin Manager Overview

The Plugin Manager Window is built on top of the Plugin API and provides a front end GUI for the Plugin Manager. It supports plugin management tasks such as plugin listing, installation, uninstallation, enabling and disabling as well as discovery of plugins available in a JAR file or Java class path. A plugin is a feature or a piece of functionality which is pluggable to a binary release of T-Plan Robot Enterprise without having to rebuild the product or modify its code. Plugins must be written in Java or have at least a Java wrapper. Plugins are delivered in form of a JAR file (Java ARchive) or a class path (directory structure) containing Java classes compiled into the byte code (.class format). Should you be interested in how to write plugins, refer to the Plugin Framework document. There are two types of plugins:

  1. Internal plugins (also called "built-in" or "default" plugins) are those that come bundled with the binary distribution of T-Plan Robot Enterprise. As a result of the open architecture most significant features were turned into plugins so that they can be easy to replace, upgrade or customize. Internal plugins can not be uninstalled. They also can not be disabled unless you provide another plugin which replaces the internal plugin functionality.
  2. External plugins represent additional functionality or modified existing features. They may be written and distributed by anyone. External plugins may be freely installed, uninstalled, enabled and disabled.

Information about locally installed plugins is stored in an XML file which is called plugin map. There's a read-only default plugin map inside the T-Plan Robot Enterprise binary which contains details of all internal plugins bundled with the product. When user installs an external plugin using the Plugin Manager Window, the underlying Plugin Manager updates the internal file and saves it as PluginMap.xml in the user's home folder and uses it instead of the default one. Should you experience any problems where plugins seem to play a role, you may as the last resort modify the file manually or rename it to make T-Plan Robot Enterprise to reload the default map.

Be aware that the Plugin Manager doesn't modify or copy the plugin binaries in any way and approaches them in a read-only mode. It is up to you to download a plugin binary and save it onto your hard drive. The manager only maintains information about the plugin binary location and mapping of installed plugins. If you delete or migrate the plugin binary, the mapping gets broken and plugin manager displays errors on startup. To fix such errors either fix or completely remove the plugin map file from your home folder.

2. Management Of Installed Plugins

Already installed plugins are listed in the Installed Plugins tab of the window as is shown on the following picture. The list hides internal plugins by default. To get them displayed set on the Display internal plugins check box.

The plugin list shows the plugin name, version, group and status for each individual plugin. Selection of a plugin in the list populates the panel on the right with additional plugin details.

Plugin group describes the functional interface the plugin implements and provides a general hint on what the feature is like. For example, the plugin selected on the picture, Connect Command is an internal plugin belonging to the group of Script Commands. As the group name already indicates it provides functionality of the Connect scripting language command.

Plugin status may be either "enabled" or "disabled". Disabled plugins are invisible to the product (except the Plugin Manager) but they remain listed in the plugin map and may be enabled back any time.

External plugins may be disabled through the Disable button. This makes the plugin invisible for its plugin factory which provides instances of the feature whenever someone requests it. This however doesn't have any effect on any already created feature instances and an application restart may be needed. Though the restart is not forced by the window, it is highly recommended. The same applies to enabling of plugins.

Both internal and external plugins may be also disabled through installation of a plugin which identifies itself as delivering the same functionality. The Plugin Manager displays a warning on installation of such a plugin and disables the already installed one if user's response is affirmative. The only difference between internal and external plugins is that when the plugin gets uninstalled, the internal plugin is enabled back automatically.

If the plugin declares any configurable parameters, it may be configured through the Configure button. This is basically just a shortcut to the plugin preferences in the Preferences window and the parameters may be modified any time outside of the Plugin Manager window.

To uninstall a plugin simply hit the Uninstall button. This will permanently remove the plugin mapping from the plugin map. Though application restart is not forced after uninstallation, it is highly recommended to do so. Internal plugins can not be uninstalled.

3. Installation of New Plugins

Installation of plugins is possible through the Available Plugins tab. To install a plugin or plugins from one binary follow these steps:

  1. Download the plugin binary (JAR, ZIP or a folder with .class files) and save it to a stable location on the hard drive. As there's no support of online plugin lists at the moment, you will have to do this manually.
  2. Start T-Plan Robot Enterprise GUI and open the Plugin Manager Window.
  3. Under the Available Plugins tab select the Add JAR, ZIP or Classpath... button and open the plugin binary. The window should display list of available plugins.
  4. To install a plugin select it in the list and hit the Install button.
    • Some plugins have dependencies (other plugins to be installed first) and must be installed in a particular order. If the Plugin Manager displays a dependency warning, install the described dependency first.
    • As most plugins require application restart, you are likely to be asked to restart. If you want to install additional plugins, you may cancel the message and perform the restart later on.
    • Repeat this step for all plugins available in the plugin binary. There's no support of mass plugin installation at the moment.
  5. Finally restart T-Plan Robot Enterprise. It is recommended to do so even if the "Restart Required" message was not displayed after plugin installation. The plugins you've installed should be now visible under the Installed Plugins tab and their functionality should be available in the product.